Brothers Andy White and Edwin White have found time in busy schedules — including Andy’s guitar and keyboard playing for Mac DeMarco’s band — to put together an album.
‘Sorcerer’ by Tonstartssbandht, pronounced tahn-starts-bandit, is the combo’s first studio LP since ‘Now I Am Become’ in 2011. The tracks on ‘Sorcerer’ are a long way from DeMarco’s short, snappy slacker-pop songs — there are only three long and meandering pieces, thrown together in a post-psychedelic collage of sibling interplay and harmonising.
The first part of the ‘Sorcereer’ triptych is a laid back jamathon called ‘Breathe’, in which Edwin’s quiet jazzy drumming is matched by Andy’s reverb-rich guitar with an acoustic feel. The vocals quietly warn “it won’t keep you sane… I won’t keep you sane” as they echo in the spaces the spartan production allows to breathe. Layers are added and the hollowness fills with faster percussion and strumming. “That’s alright, that’s OK,” squeaks a higher-pitched vocal as the doodling guitar appears determined not to riff conventionally. Eventually, interweaving high-pitched singing and more of a driving rhythm take hold — venturing towards the sound of The Doors in ‘LA Woman’. Drums stop, electric guitar drones, hums and buzzes and the track ends.
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The centrepiece and title track starts with a few verses of that high-pitched singing voice and an incessantly strumming guitar: “Oh please leave me to solve my sorrow.” Heavier guitar and drums intervene as a lo-fi psychedelic riff develops briefly. “It moves me,” sings a croaky voice. The echoing production manifests the fact that the album was recorded live in the brothers’ former Brooklyn living room, before extra vocal layers were added in their hometown of Orlando, Florida. The brothers’ voices harmonise weirdly, hitting falsettos and looping half-sung phrases whose meaning is unclear, as off-kilter guitar slides off piste. A mellower almost spoken voice says, “All I have now is my self-control”, and classically psychedelic ’60s guitar and percussion take the track to its closing phase, revisiting its earlier tune and falsetto murmurings.
The album paradoxically closes with ‘Opening’ — a twanging, at first seemingly optimistic epic with thumping drums. The brothers’ vocals take turns and interweave: “Darling,” they say, “need me when you leave me”. Guitar riffs darken and percussion tumbles into a faster locomotive rhythm; the guitar flirts with heavier electric sounds, and the brothers play with the dynamics of their squeaky and deep voices, sometimes rasping, sometimes like a preacher and congregation collapsing into glossolalia — speaking in tongues — and concluding, not surprisingly: “I don’t know what to say.”
The track’s penultimate minute forms almost a different song, with the most daring vocal interchange sounding like medieval chanting over gentle guitar finger-picking, ending with a wailing falsetto claim that “I swam the Black Sea at midnight”, before a reprieve of the track’s earlier virtuoso guitar riffing.
Tonstartssbandht’s ‘Sorcerer’ takes three long and winding trips that fleetingly visit recognisable themes and motifs, but it ultimately feels underpowered owing to the lack of bass and deliberately sparse lo-fi production values.
‘Sorcerer’ is released on 24th March via Mexican Summer.